With the 2010 edition of the Game Developers Conference winding down, we've put together a short photographic tour of our week, from Sony's PlayStation Move launch to the booth-filled expo hall. Though surprises were few and far between, we did pick up on some new lines of perceived wisdom from our fellow attendees in the form of trends and themes to watch out for.
Indie games looking for bigger audiences
One highlight of the week was the Independent Games Festival Awards, which celebrated small, indie projects. Many of these games are or will be available as iPhone, Xbox Live, or PC downloadable games, and though we thought there were too many side-scrolling platform games, there were also many very creative ideas on display.
The move toward digital distribution is having the same effect on the video game industry as it did on the music industry several years ago. Small, independent developers, with tiny budgets and teams, can bypass publishing middlemen and sell directly to the consumer (or close to directly--the owners of much of this virtual retail shelf space, including Apple and Microsoft, still act as gatekeepers).
If you want to check out a few of these indie games, Monaco, a four-player co-op game, took top honors at the awards show. We also liked the photographic mystery game Trauma and the atmospheric side-scroller Limbo. (Disclosure: My spouse, AOL Games Editor in Chief Libe Goad, is a member of the IGF judges panel.)
Social games have everyone's ear
If there's an 800-pound video game gorilla in the room right now, it's not God of War III or Gran Tourismo 5, it's FarmVille, the Facebook game with 83 million active monthly users. Panel discussions and lectures related to Farmville and other social-media games were packed during GDC, and we were especially interested to hear game maker Zynga talk about how FarmVille soft-launched with 18,000 players in its first 24 hours, and grew to one million in only four days.
Looking to get in on the action, social-networking sites MySpace and Hi5 were both actively soliciting game makers to jump to their platforms, pitching the idea that, since everyone is making and playing games on Facebook, you can stand out from the crowd by being on one of these other sites--a kind of big fish/small pond pitch.
Size still matters
Despite the attention paid to indie games, social games, and micro-transaction downloadable add-ons for existing games, this is still an industry dominated by a handful of major players.
Sony took the lead role this week, hosting a huge coming out event for its PlayStation Move motion control peripheral. With consumers (and the media) bombarded by a non-stop stream of new products and announcements, there are few things as valuable as being able to dominate the conversation with a single major brushstroke.
We got some hands-on time with the PlayStation Move, and it compared with our recent demo of Microsoft's Project Natal motion control system. Check out our initial impressions of both systems.